Category Archives: Energy

Pioneers show Americans how to live “off-grid”

from Reuters

By Tim Gaynor

BISBEE, Ariz (Reuters) – With energy prices going through the roof, an alternative lifestyle powered by solar panels and wind turbines has suddenly become more appealing to some. For architect Todd Bogatay, it has been reality for years.

When he bought this breezy patch of scrub-covered mountaintop with views to Mexico more than two decades ago, he was one of only a few Americans with an interest in wind- and solar-powered homes.

Now, Bogatay is surrounded by 15 neighbors who, like him, live off the electricity grid, with power from solar panels and wind turbines that he either built or helped to install.

“People used to be attracted to living off-grid for largely environmental reasons, although that is now changing as energy prices rise,” he said, standing in blazing sunshine with a wind turbine thrashing the air like a weed whacker overhead.

Spry and energetic, Bogatay makes few sacrifices for his chosen lifestyle. He has a small, energy saving refrigerator, but otherwise his house is like any other, with satellite television and a computer with Internet service.

“Electric and gas are going to skyrocket very soon. There are going to be more reasons for doing it, economic reasons,” he said.

Bogatay and his neighbors at the 120-acre development are among a very small but fast-growing group of Americans opting to meet their own energy needs as power prices surge and home repossessions grow.

Once the domain of a few hardy pioneers, the dispersed movement is now attracting not just a few individuals and families, but institutions and developers building subdivisions that meet their own energy needs.

“It has its roots in 1970s hippy culture and survivalism, but it has now superseded that completely,” said Nick Rosen, a trend analyst and author of the book “How to Live Off-Grid.”

“Because of technology advancing … and because of high house and energy prices … there are a lot more people moving off grid.”

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Hypermiling : Ways to decrease your fuel consumption

From Hypermiling

1. First (and most important) step: Start recording your gas mileage. Easiest way? Use your trip odometer. Method to check your MPG

2. Second step: Do you drive aggressively and not know it?

3. The third step: How long are you sitting still at red lights?

4. The fourth step: Keeping moving in traffic congestion.

5. The fifth step: Slowly accelerate after stops.

6. The sixth step: Your cruise control saves gas (but not by using it they way you might think)

What direction should my ceiling fan go in the winter?

In the 1880’s after the invention of electricity, the first ceiling fan was born and became the first real electrical appliance. Then in the late 1940’s with electricity at a super low cost and the air conditioning intro, ceiling fan needs some what disappeared.The rebirth of the ceiling fan occurred when energy costs began to rise at an uncomfortable rate in 1974. As these costs rose especially air conditioning prices, Americans began to search for alternate meathods of heating and cooling. This brought out the forward and reverse direction of the ceiling fan to increase efficiency during the winter and summer months.

In the Summer the Ceiling Fan should be rotating counter clockwise

The effects of a ceiling fan in the summer months are directly related to the well know wind chill factor. By producing a breeze or wind chill, a ceiling fans downward airflow can make a room with a thermostate setting of 78 degrees feel like 72 degrees. The actual thermostate in the room will not change, it does not cool the room, people in the room will feel the wind chill effect making them more comfortable.


This will save from 30% to 40% on air conditioning bills. So, make sure during summer months that your ceiling fans are rotating counter clockwise pushing the air down.

In the Winter the Ceiling Fan should be rotating clockwise

Ceiling fans are generally associated with warm weather usage. However, when a ceiling fan is in the reverse motion (winter mode), the upward flow of air will push the warmer air trapped at the ceiling back down to earth making your feet feel as warm as your neck. With out a ceiling fan pushing the warm trapped air the ceiling of a room would be 15 degrees warmer than on the floor.


To avoid wind chill in the winter warming the ceiling fans should stay on low speeds at all times. Remember that in the reverse direction the ceiling fan should be pushing the air upward.


Energy Conservation Tips

* Be careful with your water use – Cutting your shower time down just a few minutes each time can save you more than you’d think. Check leaks. One drip can cost you 75 gallons of water a month. Insulate pipes where possible to prevent heat loss, and only operate dishwashers and washing machines with full loads. Consider low-flow shower heads.

* Watch the thermostat closely – Would it really make much of a difference to you if you turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees? It probably wouldn’t at all, especially if you threw on a sweatshirt around the house. But the savings on your energy bill will be tremendous. ONG says that each degree you set your thermostat above 68 degrees increases heating costs by 3%.

* Make some minor adjustments – As mentioned before, simple minor adjustments like putting on a sweater will help your energy savings. In addition, open the shades during the day if you don’t already. Let the sun warm your home. Move chairs and couches away from the walls, and try to do the bulk of your leisure activities in the warmer rooms of your house.

* Insulation is key – Have you been putting off changing filters or having new windows installed? You shouldn’t. If you have dirty filters or poor window insulation, you will lose much more in the long run. In the meantime, though, check seals and place blankets around windows or add an insulating blanket to your water heater.

* Beware the fireplace temptation – I love a warm fire as much as the next person, but believe it or not, you’re actually doing more harm than good when you have one burning. ONG says you could be drawing off as much as 20% of the heat in your home. Burn a fire as a special occasion rather than the norm, and make sure the dampers are closed and sealed tightly when the fireplace is not in use.

More tips:

Step 1:
Tend to your boilers and furnaces. Have a yearly inspection by a professional to ensure top operability. Always change your air filters according to the manufacturer’s schedule. Make sure nothing blocks your heat registers to ensure maximum heat penetration, and close vents and shut doors to unused rooms.

Step 2:
Purchase a programmable thermostat to control the temperature while you are away from home. For a minimal investment, this can save money on natural gas costs. Simply set your house’s temperature lower while you are away from home and watch your savings multiply. If you go out of town, set your thermostat to a low temperature, yet high enough to keep pipes from freezing.

Step 3:
Monitor your hot water usage. Lower your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap an insulated blanket around the water heater if the outside is warm to the touch—this means it loses heat. Insulate hot water pipes to avoid losing heat (thus using less natural gas). Fix leaky faucets and install a lower-flow shower head. Always run your washing machine and dishwasher at full capacity.

Step 4:
Change the way you use energy in your home. Caulk and insulate areas that might allow heat loss such as windows, doors and attics. Close the damper and doors to your fireplace after use. Air-dry your clothes instead of using that energy-guzzling gas dryer. Purchase Energy Star products when replacing appliances.